Your greatest asset isn’t a product or a service — it’s the people. And happy people lead to positive effects for your organization.
According to Gallup, engaged employees see a 41% increase in work quality and are 23% more profitable for their organizations.
Clearly, a strong connection between the organization and its workforce is essential. A solid people strategy is the key to building that connection for the present and the future.
In this article, you’ll learn precisely why a good people strategy is so important, plus what an effective people strategy looks like in practice. You’ll also discover how a successful people strategy can impact your organization and the best practices to get started.
What is a people strategy?
A people strategy is a document that outlines how your organization plans to attract, grow, and retain your best talent over time. This document is usually created and maintained by your HR team and helps your entire organization understand the best way to build solid and lasting relationships among employees.
With a proper people strategy in place, organizations will see improvements in the following:
- Better decision-making
- Emphasis on supporting employees in their career growth
- Stronger diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts
- Overall workplace culture
Why is creating a people strategy important?
When you put a people strategy in place, it shifts your organizational focus to your employees.
Think about a people strategy like a map. You may know where you want your organization to go, but it’ll be tough to actually make it there without that document.
That map also provides your employees with a clear-cut pathway to upskill or reskill to bring their best selves into their roles. This leads your employees to higher performance and translates to better employee retention rates.
How is a people strategy different from HR?
You’d be correct to think that a people strategy sounds like HR. They work together and sometimes even overlap. Where the HR function might track employee turnover, the right people strategy considers why an employee might want to leave.
A people strategy stems from an HR strategy but looks at overall business goals from a people-first approach, asking questions like:
- How can we boost engagement for our employees?
- What’s contributing to employee churn?
- Does the employee experience help teammates do their best work?
- Is our HR team hiring for the right skills?
- Are there any groups of employees that feel unsupported? If so, what are we doing to solve that problem?
- Is our company culture one everyone wants to participate in and contribute to?
What are key priorities for HR?
Traditionally, human resources (HR) helps organizations grow by handling administrative tasks related to the workforce, like contract management, salaries, and compensation, plus legal compliance.
Basically, HR looks at the operational side of an organization and is responsible for building systems to stay compliant with current laws and processes, including:
- Benefits and perks management
- Compensation and salary management
- Legal compliance
- Budget management
- Compliance training
What are the key priorities for a people strategy?
A people strategy, on the other hand, thinks about business growth from the perspective of people. This strategy is responsible for building a positive relationship between employees and the organization to retain talent, maintain employee satisfaction, and increase productivity.
In other words, once you onboard a star hire, a people strategy can help you keep them.
Specifically, a people strategy focuses on:
- Learning and development
- Professional development and career growth
- Leadership development
- Employee engagement
- Relationship building in the workplace
4 components of an effective people strategy
Let’s get one thing straight — when developing a proper people strategy, there’s no one-size-all. What works for your organizational culture might look totally different for another company.
Regardless, there are four components you must include for your people strategy to be truly useful, including how you’ll recruit and how to keep top talent from jumping ship.
Take a closer look at these elements to see what makes them so effective.
1) Encourage a culture of learning
Your employees want options for learning and development (L&D).
A 2020 study by LinkedIn found that 73% would stay with their current employer if they provided meaningful training opportunities to grow in their roles. That makes a pretty compelling case to offer always-on learning programs to nurture talent development at your organization.
Mentoring programs easily fit this bill by leveraging your star employees to match with mentees.
This is an opportunity to build solid relationships and upskill your workforce without investing in training modules that are costly or take time to build. A tool like Together makes it easy to seamlessly launch programs that benefit all employees.
2) Focus on workplace culture
Company culture is the shared values held by an organization and carried out by its employees.
Think about it as the sum of all your workplace's written and unwritten rules.
Even if you don’t have a formalized company culture, you still have a culture — you’re just not in control of it. When you understand your company culture, you can better support everyone in your workforce and make them feel genuinely valued.
Workplace culture largely starts with a company’s values. It builds from there with factors like hiring practices, engagement tactics, and important factors like creating an inclusive culture focused on DEI efforts and employee wellbeing.
3) Understand how to keep employees engaged
An engaged employee is not only a happier employee but also much better for your organization’s bottom line.
Employees engaged in their roles are more productive and less likely to seek a new job elsewhere. Since we know the cost of a new hire is about three to four times more than a position’s salary, retaining talent directly translates into company savings.
There are a few factors that contribute to improved employee engagement.
- Be transparent about your organization. Let your employees know what’s driving high-level decisions.
- Empower accountability at all levels. Encourage your employees to hold ownership over their day-to-day tasks.
- Recognize the successes. When an employee does something great, make sure to celebrate it.
4) Build a way for employees to leave feedback
Your people strategy will work much better for your organization if you include the perspectives of the people who benefit from it — your employees.
Build in time for employee feedback throughout the employee lifecycle at your company. You can offer an always-on space to drop input, like a Google form, or simply put in place an open-door policy with an HR or People Ops representative.
On top of these more evergreen feedback moments, it also makes sense to create strategic touchpoints, including:
- Immediately after onboarding wraps
- At the 3-month mark
- After a review cycle with a manager
- After a promotion
- Post-training, like after a mentoring relationship wraps
- Once an employee puts in a two-week notice
Asking for feedback at major moments in an employee’s journey at your company will help you keep a pulse on the overall company culture and take action if an issue arises.
Examples of effective people strategy
A strong people strategy looks different for every company. For some, it makes sense to emphasize the onboarding experience, while for others, it's more about supporting diverse workers.
Let’s look at two examples of companies investing in people strategies to support their employee base and transform their workplace culture.
Avison Young invests in diverse employees
Commercial real estate firm Avison Young has always been a people-first organization.
The company values diversity and strives to continually build initiatives to support diversity, equity, and inclusion — including a mentorship program. Avison Young turned to Together to help manage its Employee Resource Groups, focusing on Black professionals, Women’s Network, and LGBTQ+ employees.
After using Together, Avison Young found its people strategy became even stronger. The company saw retention rates skyrocket and was recognized by Forbes as one of America’s best employers. Plus, employees loved the program, rating it a 3.97 out of 4 across 550 employees.
Cooley makes onboarding a people-first experience
Global law firm Cooley built a scalable onboarding program to prepare employees for the complex litigation and legal work expected of its workers.
The firm turned to Together to build a mentoring program. The goal was to connect new hires with more experienced individuals and use knowledge-sharing to develop a formal pathway to career development.
This program became the Cooley Academy Mentoring Program (CAMP) and gave new hires a support system to understand their role and responsibilities much faster than they would on their own.
Thanks to Cooley’s people-first mentoring program, 95% agree the company is a great place to work, compared to the U.S. average of 59%.
Create a winning people strategy to support your team
A well-crafted people strategy is a cornerstone of organizational success. It flips the script on traditional HR to manage a workforce and truly support every worker on the individual level.
With a people strategy, you prove to your employees that they matter and give them opportunities to grow in their careers and build the skills they need to thrive. When you take care of your team, it benefits your bottom line.
A mentoring program builds people-first learning opportunities into your people strategy. Tools like Together make it easy to empower your workers to take control of their career growth and gain new skills while building meaningful relationships.